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GNOFHAC welcomes Diane Nash to Fit for a King 2019

Posted on 07. Dec, 2018 by

We’re thrilled to welcome Diane Nash as the Keynote Speaker for Fit for a King 2019. You won’t want to miss your chance to hear from this legendary Civil Rights leader and strategist! Learn more about the conference and register here.

A Chicago native who had never experienced segregation in public accommodations before moving to the South, Diane Nash went on to become one of the pioneers of the Civil Rights Movement. Nash’s involvement in the nonviolent movement began in 1959 while she was a student at Fisk University. In 1960 she became the chairperson of the student sit-in movement in Nashville, Tennessee—the first southern city to desegregate its lunch counters—as well as one of the founding students of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee. In 1961 she coordinated the Freedom Ride from Birmingham, Alabama, to Jackson, Mississippi, a story which was documented in the recent PBS American Experience film Freedom Riders.

Her many arrests for her civil rights activities culminated in Nash being imprisoned for 30 days in 1961, while she was pregnant with her first child. Undeterred, she went on to join a national committee—to which she was appointed by President John F. Kennedy—that promoted passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Nash later became active in the peace movement that worked to end the Vietnam War, and became an instructor in the philosophy and strategy of non-violence as developed by Mohandas Gandhi.

Diane Nash is the recipient of numerous awards, including the War Resisters’ League Peace Award; the Distinguished American Award presented by the John F. Kennedy Library; the LBJ Award for Leadership in Civil Rights from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum; and an honorary doctorate of human letters from Fisk University, her alma mater. Most recently, Nash delivered the 2009 Slavery Remembrance Day Memorial Lecture in Liverpool, England.

Her work has been cited in numerous books, documentaries, magazines, and newspaper articles, and she has appeared on such TV shows and films as The Oprah Winfrey Show, Spike Lee’s Four Little Girls, and PBS’s Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years 1954-1965.

Check out this video of Nash and last year’s Fit for a King keynote speaker, Bree Newsome. We hope to see you at this year’s summit! Email with any event related questions.

Stating the Unsaid: Sexual Harassment in Housing

Posted on 07. Nov, 2018 by

The #MeToo movement has drawn attention to the lasting effects that sexual harassment and assault have on survivors. From the workplace to public spaces, survivors are sharing their stories and voicing their experiences. An area that has not received as much attention, however, is the sexual harassment and assault that takes place in the home.

The Fair Housing Act protects against two main types of sexual harassment: quid pro quo and hostile environment. Quid pro quo, or “this for that,” sexual harassment occurs when a housing provider or their employee requires sexual acts in exchange for housing or housing-related transactions like repairs. Hostile environment sexual harassment occurs when a housing provider or their employee creates an environment of unwanted, severe, and/or pervasive sexual behavior that negatively affects a tenant.

In August, 2018 the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) filed suit in federal court against Jerry Kelly Jr. after former tenants and a previous leasing agent alleged, among other things, that Mr. Kelly grabbed the buttocks of a woman during lease signing, entered a unit without notice while a tenant was showering, and exhibited a preference to rent to “young, skinny, white girls.”

“We often think of sexual harassment and discrimination as a workplace issue, but landlords are just as likely to abuse the power they hold over current and prospective tenants,” said Cashauna Hill, executive director at GNOFHAC. “The allegations in this case should concern us all, and we implore any person with knowledge of similar behavior to report their suspicions to the Fair Housing Action Center so that we can prevent future harm,” she continued.

If you are experiencing sexual harassment in housing, the Fair Housing Act protects you and is an important tool to hold the perpetrator accountable. Contact the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center at 504-596-2100 or 877-445-2100. Help is free and confidential.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Know How You’re Protected Under the Law

Posted on 30. Oct, 2018 by

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and in Louisiana, one of the states with the highest rates of female homicide victims, there is an especially urgent need for awareness and action.

Domestic violence and housing go hand in hand. Far too often, survivors of domestic violence are forced to make the decision between their safety and their home. Nearly 1 in 3 residents in Louisiana domestic violence shelters reported being there because the actions of their abusers led to their eviction, according to a 2015 Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence survey. Because many shelters are at capacity and have to turn away survivors, evictions often lead to homelessness. According to the 2013 Louisiana Homeless Census, 75 percent of all homeless adults in Louisiana report being victims of domestic violence.

In 2015, GNOFHAC, the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence and partners from across the state succeeded in passing the Louisiana Violence Against Women Act to protect the housing rights of survivors of domestic violence. There are four important provisions:

  1. Survivors cannot be evicted or penalized for calling for emergency assistance. It’s against the law for a housing provider to have a “zero tolerance” policy for police visits in their lease.
  2. Survivors cannot be evicted because of the violence of their abuser. Survivors are often evicted due to the actions of an abuser regardless of whether or not the abuser lived on the property. This act not only protects survivors against court-ordered evictions, but also against other types of evictions, like a notice to vacate or refusal to renew a month-to-month lease.
  3. Survivors cannot be denied housing solely because they have experienced past abuse. Shelters often report that if a survivor lists a domestic violence shelter as a previous residence on a housing application, they often have more trouble finding housing. A landlord or leasing agent cannot refuse to provide housing to someone solely because they have experienced domestic violence.
  4. Survivors can terminate a lease early if they need to. Survivors who need to leave their home due to domestic violence must be allowed to do so without forfeiting their security deposit or other penalty.

The Louisiana Violence Against Women Act offers important protections, but many tenants in Louisiana are not aware of these rights. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, contact the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence at 1-888-411-1333. Help is free, confidential, and available 24 hours a day. If you believe you’ve been discriminated against by a housing provider, or if you have questions about your housing rights, call the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center at 1-877-445-2100.

GNOFHAC Sues Local Landlord, Tenants Allege Sexual Harassment and Discrimination

Posted on 29. Aug, 2018 by

New Orleans—Today, the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) filed suit in federal court against Jerry Kelly Jr. and a number of LLCs he owns. In the suit, former tenants and a previous leasing agent allege, among other things, that Mr. Kelly grabbed the buttocks of a woman during lease signing, entered a unit without notice while a tenant was showering, and exhibited a preference to rent to “young, skinny, white girls.”

GNOFHAC began its investigation into Mr. Kelly after former tenants of his multiple Uptown apartments made allegations against him on social media forums. Soon after, a former leasing agent with detailed knowledge of Mr. Kelly’s rental practices independently contacted GNOFHAC and corroborated that Mr. Kelly discriminated against current and prospective tenants based on sex.

One previous tenant, who was 20 years old when Mr. Kelly rented to her, shared during an interview with GNOFHAC that Mr. Kelly repeatedly let himself into her apartment without warning, regularly asked her for dates, told her he would reduce her rent if she “set him up on a date” with one of her friends, and admitted he only rents to women. After only six months, the tenant broke her lease and moved in with friends to escape Mr. Kelly’s advances.

The former leasing agent who contacted GNOFHAC reported that Mr. Kelly harassed several of his female tenants through sexual propositions, unauthorized and unannounced entry into their apartments, requests for dates, and multiple late-night phone calls.

GNOFHAC also conducted an undercover investigation of Mr. Kelly’s rental practices using mystery shoppers. One mystery shopper in her early 20s reported that during a conversation in his office, Mr. Kelly openly stared at her body and nibbled his lips as he looked at her legs. Mr. Kelly told another mystery shopper in her 30s that she was “an all grown up woman” and that she was too “pristine and together” to live in the apartment he was showing her. Mr. Kelly promptly and reliably returned the calls of female mystery shoppers and met with them in person about the advertised apartment units, but did not return any phone calls from male mystery shoppers.

“We often think of sexual harassment and discrimination as a workplace issue, but landlords are just as likely to abuse the power they hold over current and prospective tenants,” said Cashauna Hill, executive director at GNOFHAC. “The allegations in this case should concern us all, and we implore any person with knowledge of similar behavior to report their suspicions to the Fair Housing Action Center so that we can prevent future harm,” she continued.

GNOFHAC is represented in this matter by the Tulane Law School Civil Rights and Federal Practice Clinic and by GNOFHAC attorneys Elizabeth Owen and Peter Theis. The full legal complaint is available here.

Contact: Maxwell Ciardullo, 504-273-6769,


The work that provided the basis for this release was supported, in part, by funding under a grant with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this release. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Government. 

Staff Spotlight: Meena Haque

Posted on 18. Jul, 2018 by

In this series, we’ll be highlighting the contributions our fabulous staff makes to our organization. After all, any organization is only as powerful as its people–and ours are powerful indeed. While many of our staff members work in an outreach capacity and engage directly with our clients and supporters, some of our staff remain behind the scenes. I’m Aviv Rau, a summer intern working in the Education & Outreach Department. To kick it off, I decided to start by interviewing Meena Haque, GNOFHAC’s Development Manager. In our interview, Meena stressed the importance of coalition-building and collaborating for social justice work, the racial justice lens that guides her work, and her strong commitment to fighting for fair housing. She also shared a glimpse at her typical day in the office and what her job here entails.

If you had to describe your job here in a sentence or less, how would you summarize it?

I am the Development Manager for the Fair Housing Action Center and I work on bringing money into the organization, whether that’s through individual giving, fundraisers, events, sponsorships, grant-writing, or an annual appeal or monthly giving programs.

What brought you to GNOFHAC?  

I graduated from Syracuse University, where I studied Political Science and International Relations and minored in Middle Eastern Studies and LGBT Studies. The first job I had right after college was working for UNICEF, which is housed under the United Nations. I was doing community engagement and community outreach with them and raising awareness and funds for issues different children face around the world, whether that’s natural disasters, famine in different parts of Africa, Syrian refugees, or working with Palestinian children. After that, I worked for other nonprofits, including an anti-human trafficking organization and the National Audubon Society where I did environmental and conservation work. What led me to fair housing was realizing that my values and beliefs align more so with civil rights organizations and social justice groups. As much as I love environmental work, I wasn’t doing the environmental work I wanted to do on the racial and environmental justice side. I wanted to go back to something that was racial justice-oriented, and I came across this position and applied. To me, fair housing is about ending the racial wealth gap in New Orleans and in Louisiana. You have to have a very strong commitment to social justice to be passionate about this type of work.

What has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in your time here thus far?

There have been a lot, but one valuable lesson I’ve learned is that when you collaborate and join forces with different and like-minded groups, you can create a bigger impact and send a bigger message. It’s just a myth that there’s a limited amount of funds and resources when in actuality there is a lot of money out there. I think my favorite aspect of my job is the ability and privilege to meet different people in different walks of life. I just got back from Denver a few weeks ago where I met with a fair housing cohort. The group itself was about 20 folks and they represented seven or eight different fair housing organizations from all over the country. It was really cool to meet other groups that are doing things similarly and differently, but also to hear everyone’s personal stories of why they’re involved. I learned about this issue from an interfaith perspective–so me being Muslim, how am I using my faith in activism to fight against certain issues? But also there were folks in the cohort who were Jewish and they were talking about what it means to be Jewish doing this work and how they use their faith and their activism to fight for housing issues. It was cool to hear that. My favorite part is the ability and opportunity to meet really different people, whether it be folks who are doing similar work or folks who are receiving our services.

What does your typical day at the office entail?

It depends. I just started with the organization back in late October, so in terms of what fair housing entails, I’ve still been learning the ropes, whether that’s applying for grants or just doing more research on my own. My day is either spent doing fundraising and grant-writing, or reaching out to donors and board members or sponsors. In the future, I’m going to start to meet with the donors and major funders to inspire them to give back more because I think everyone has the capacity to give in a way that’s personally meaningful.

I’m interested in what you mean by “personally meaningful.” Care to elaborate?

It really depends on who I’m talking to. Sometimes if I’m talking to donors, I try to gauge their level of knowledge when it comes to housing justice and housing rights. I try to frame it in a way that they can understand. So if they happen to be really passionate about children and education, I’ll make the connection between housing and schools. If the donors are passionate about health reform and healthcare, then I can talk to them about how if people don’t have access to safe homes and they live in dilapidated homes or areas that are compromising their health, then how are they functioning as healthy and contributing members of society? It really depends on who I meet with and who I talk to because having them teach me where they are helps me frame the work that I’m doing a little bit better. I try to always paint a narrative whether it’s talking to individual donors and board members or talking to people who work for national foundations–program officers, for example.

Which local organization/initiative/coalition/activist would you like to should out for the work they’re doing and why?

Gosh, there are so many! I really like Paper Monuments. They are committed to showing New Orleans history from a racial lens; Take ‘Em Down NOLA was behind the movement to take down the Confederate statues in New Orleans. These groups ask important questions from a digital, visual, and oral storytelling lens, like what are we doing to showcase the authentic history of New Orleans? Also, the local Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has a campaigns to fix people’s broken tail lights because that’s one of the routine stops police officers do when they pull over people of color. DSA is going around to different communities and different neighborhoods and volunteering their time to check people’s taillights, so that police officers don’t have an excuse to pull them over.

What is one housing-related issue you’d like to make people more aware of?

I want people to see the issue of housing from a historic lens–that segregation is something that was created and has been perpetuated for decades.  Many of the communities we think of as “unsafe” have historically had money divested from them. So when you’re not investing in communities, it’s going to falter, and obviously there’s going to be high crime. So when we divest from these groups, yet then say that they’re not committed to rebuilding their neighborhoods, I think that’s not really looking at this issue from a very fair perspective. I want people to recognize that redlining has been a practice for a really long time. Housing discrimination is not something that’s new. Fair housing means that every person, regardless of who they are and what their background is, deserves to live in a thriving and vibrant community.

Another issue, especially here in New Orleans, is gentrification and short-term rentals (like Airbnb). Those are ruining the fabric of our communities as well. I urge people to do more research and know that by voting we have an opportunity to end these types of heinous things that are happening in our communities. 

Throughout the interview, you’ve referenced your strong organizing background and the social justice lens that informs your work. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds like that background helps you to be able to tell stories and use the angle of the story to connect with individual audience members. Is that right?

Exactly, and that’s also why it’s important for me to keep up with what other departments within our organization are doing. That way, I can keep our supporters informed and updated. For example, if supporters care about housing through a public policy lens, then I can talk to them about what our Policy and Communications team is doing. Or if they care about volunteering, I can talk to them about what Education and Outreach is doing. It’s something that I try to be “in the know” about.

Civil Rights Organizations File Federal Lawsuit Against Bank of America Alleging Housing Discrimination in New Orleans and Baton Rouge

Posted on 27. Jun, 2018 by

WASHINGTON, D.C. and NEW ORLEANS, LA — Today, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC), 18 fair housing organizations, and two homeowners in Maryland filed a federal Fair Housing Act lawsuit against Bank of America, N.A., Bank of America Corp., and Safeguard Properties Management, LLC (“Bank of America/ Safeguard”). The lawsuit alleges Defendants intentionally failed to provide routine exterior maintenance and marketing at Bank of America-owned homes in working- and middle-class African-American and Latino neighborhoods in 37 metropolitan areas, while they consistently maintained similar bank-owned homes in comparable white neighborhoods.

The data presented in the federal lawsuit, which is supported by substantial photographic evidence, shows a glaring pattern of discriminatory conduct by Bank of America/Safeguard. More than 35,000 photos document the relevant conditions of the more than 1,600 Bank of America-owned homes. In neighborhoods of color, Plaintiffs found evidence of poor maintenance such as wildly overgrown grass and weeds, unsecured doors and windows, damaged steps and handrails, accumulated trash and debris, unsecured pools, graffiti, and even dead animals decaying in yards. 

In New Orleans, Plaintiffs investigated 33 Bank of America-owned homes and found that 59% of properties in neighborhoods of color had 10 or more marketing or maintenance deficiencies, while none of the REO properties in white neighborhoods had 10 or more marketing or maintenance deficiencies. 77% of properties in neighborhoods of color also had substantial amounts of trash or debris, while only 27% of properties in predominantly white neighborhoods had the same problem.

The Bank of America-owned properties in Baton Rouge followed a similar pattern: 50% of properties in neighborhoods of color had 10 or more marketing or maintenance deficiencies, while only 13% of the REO properties in white neighborhoods had 10 or more marketing or maintenance deficiencies. Additionally, 61% of the properties in neighborhoods of color had substantial amounts of trash or debris on the premises, while only 13% of the REO properties in predominantly white neighborhoods had the same problem. 

The lawsuit is the result of a multi-year investigation undertaken by NFHA, GNOFHAC, and its other fair housing agency partners. In June 2009, NFHA notified Bank of America of maintenance problems that appeared to violate the Fair Housing Act. NFHA met with Bank of America officials for more than a year and offered recommendations to ensure proper treatment of its homes in communities of color. However, after seeing no improvement in routine exterior maintenance of Bank of America-owned homes in communities of color, NFHA began a multi-year, multi-city systemic investigation. “Bank of America was put on notice multiple times since 2009, including the filing of a HUD housing discrimination complaint against it and publication of three reports documenting the nationwide problem of poor maintenance of bank-owned homes in communities of color,” said Lisa Rice, President and CEO of NFHA.

“Bank of America has shown that it can adequately maintain real estate in the white communities of Baton Rouge and New Orleans, so it is only fair that homes in African American communities in those cities are maintained just as well,” said Cashauna Hill, Executive Director of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center. “No one deserves to live next to an unsafe, unsightly structure, especially when its owner is a multi-national corporation that refuses to do simple maintenance.”

The full complaint is available here and here. The map of all cities included in the investigation and selected photos of the properties is available here. The plaintiffs are represented by Brown, Goldsten & Levy, LLP. 

Pride Month and Housing (In)Justice

Posted on 25. Jun, 2018 by

June is Pride Month, and as we look at how far LGBTQ+ communities have come in recent years, it’s important to recognize that many in those communities still experience discrimination and injustice. One instance is housing injustice, specifically for transgender and gender nonbinary people. Currently, transgender and nonbinary individuals–those who don’t identify with the gender they were assigned at birth–face all sorts of hurdles both subtle and overt when seeking housing.

For many trans and nonbinary people, housing discrimination can occur as early as the application process. People who use names and/or genders different than those on their government-issued IDs may be flagged as suspicious by landlords. The significant costs and legal hurdles people face when seeking name or gender changes on documents leave low-income transgender people most vulnerable to discrimination. Discrimination of all sorts against LGBTQ+ individuals plagues the job market as well, leaving many trans individuals especially caught in a cycle of being unable to secure stable housing or jobs. The National Center for Transgender Equality reveals that one in five transgender or nonbinary individuals has faced housing insecurity. Additionally, many trans people experience harassment, including sexual harassment, by neighbors and/or landlords.

Like other forms of identity-based discrimination, the housing injustice that trans and nonbinary people face is often insidious. Landlords cover their tracks with excuses about homes no longer being available or by simply not responding to LGBTQ+ applicants. An Urban Institute study conducted in Washington, D.C. found that landlords treated transgender applicants significantly differently from cisgender applicants, whether or not the clients revealed themselves as trans. This means that landlords were making assumptions about the identities of trans individuals based on their ability to “pass” as cisgender or not.

Though discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is not explicitly outlawed under the Fair Housing Act, sex discrimination is illegal and courts have begun recognizing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity as a type of sex discrimination because it punishes people for not conforming with sex stereotypes (including in a landmark Colorado case that found a landlord barring a trans woman and her partner from renting his property to be illegal housing discrimination). HUD has also in recent years made clear that discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in any federally funded housing is illegal, with regulations released in 2012 and 2016. Still, the lack of strict federal or state protections against sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination allows landlords and private housing providers to get away with clearly inequitable treatment. And recently, the Trump administration has begun delaying or rescinding many key civil rights regulations, leaving advocates worried about the future of federal protections for LGBTQ+ people. One prominent example is the 2016 regulation that requires federally-funded shelters to let residents stay in shelters that match their gender identity.

While some states and municipalities have taken matters into their own hands and passed progressive legislation to protect trans community members, Louisiana unfortunately has not. While there are  anti-discrimination ordinances that protect trans and nonbinary people in New Orleans and Shreveport, there is no statewide protection in place to shield the rest of Louisiana’s trans community from transphobia and discrimination. Of course, the intersections of identity mean that low-income, trans people of color and trans youth are especially at risk of being misgendered, harassed, or turned away entirely.

Whether you’re a member of the LGBTQ+ community or an ally, there are things we all can do to ensure that all Louisianans have fair access to a place to live. Become a mystery shopper  for GNOFHAC, sign up for action alerts, or donate to support fair housing work across Louisiana. If you or a loved one have experienced discrimination, contact GNOFHAC at (877) 445-2100 or by email at Help is free and confidential.


Welcome our 2018 Summer Interns and Law Clerks!

Posted on 13. Jun, 2018 by


Madeline Aruffo is a third-year law student at Tulane University School of Law. Prior to law school, Madeline attended Boston University, and double majored in philosophy and psychology. She has a passion for housing equality and public interest law, and loves living in New Orleans. 



Cameron Bertron is the president of her second-year class at Tulane University Law School and serves on the executive board of the Entertainment and Art Law Society.  She grew up in North Florida and worked in film production in New York City before attending law school. Bertron earned her BFA from Florida State University.




Christopher Kerrigan is a second-year law student at Loyola New Orleans College of Law. Mr. Kerrigan previously served as a City Councilmember in Eureka, California from 2000-2008. Mr. Kerrigan has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Humboldt State University and and Masters of Science in Political Psychology from Queen’s University Belfast. He also enjoys playing tennis.



Maya Newman is an undergraduate at Tulane University, majoring in Sociology and Social Policy and minoring in Public Health. She became passionate about fair housing policy as an intern at the New Orleans Mission, where she assisted formerly homeless people with their housing searches. Maya is excited to promote the right to safe, affordable, and fair housing for all in Louisiana. 



Aviv Rau is a senior at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, where she studies Sociology and American Studies. Outside of the classroom, Aviv is engaged with Connecticut’s labor rights movement and co-hosts a podcast called Unwind the Line. An Atlanta native, Aviv is excited to spend the summer in New Orleans interning with GNOFHAC’s Education and Outreach department. 



Patrick Wroe, originally from Austin, Texas, is interning this summer with GNOFHAC through the Leadership in Educational Equity Summer Fellowship, in partnership with Teach for America. After graduating from Tulane University with a degree in finance, he joined Arthur Ashe Charter School as a 7th grade Special Education teacher and spent the past two years in the classroom ensuring his students received quality education. Patrick is excited to join GNOFHAC this summer and support the policy and advocacy work on fair housing issues throughout Louisiana.


Best Friends Day: Fair Housing and Assistance Animals

Posted on 08. Jun, 2018 by

June 8th is National Best Friends Day. For many, their best friend is their pet; for some, their furry friend isn’t just a pet, but an animal that provides necessary assistance or service they need due to a disability. Under the Fair Housing Act, housing providers are required to make reasonable and necessary accommodations to people with disabilities, including allowing a service or assistance animal. 

An assistance animal is an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates symptoms or effects of a person’s disability. For example, an assistance animal could be a cat that alleviates the symptoms of depression or anxiety. Any animal can be an assistance animal (as long as it it necessary and reasonable) and a housing provider must accept a letter from a doctor, psychiatrist, social worker, or someone familiar with the disability as proof of the need for an assistance animal.

A service animal is a dog or pony that is trained to do work or perform tasks for someone with a disability. For example, a service animal could be a guide dog, or a dog that can detect blood sugar changes in a person with diabetes and warn them if their blood sugar gets too high or too low. If the need for a service animal is not obvious, a housing provider may ask: (1) is this a service animal that is required because of a disability? and (2) what work or tasks has the animal been trained to perform?

Housing providers cannot charge a pet fee or pet deposit, or enforce breed or size restrictions, for a service or assistance animal. If your housing provide has denied your request for an accommodation due to a disability, such as allowing you to have an assistance or service animal, call the GNO Fair Housing Action Center at 877-445-2100.

Hurricane Season and the History of Unequal Disaster Risk

Posted on 04. Jun, 2018 by

The Atlantic Hurricane season officially started on June 1. The Data Center’s recent report, Rigging the Real Estate Market: Segregation, Inequality, and Disaster Risk, reminds us that disasters don’t affect everyone equally. The report highlights some of the history that led to an unfair disaster risk burden on people of lower-income and people of color in New Orleans.

Early in New Orleans’ history, wealthy New Orleanians were able to buy the land above sea level, while lower income residents, including free people of color, settled on lower ground. This made it so the homes of the white and wealthy were less susceptible to flooding.

Fast-forward to the levees failing after Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, and while the storm displaced many people across the city, African American residents were more likely to be impacted by flooding than other groups: 68 percent of African Americans faced displacement, compared to 43 percent of whites.

The Road Home recovery program that awarded homeowners money to return and rebuild ultimately enforced patterns of segregation and inequality by giving larger monetary amounts to homeowners in predominantly white neighborhoods than homeowners in predominately African American neighborhoods based on either the home’s pre-storm value or the cost to rebuild, whichever was the lesser amount.

As a result, homeowners in segregated white neighborhoods, which had higher pre-storm values, received higher grant awards than homeowners in predominantly African American neighborhoods, who were frequently awarded the lower pre-storm value of the home. This was true even when the homes were the same size and age, and the damage was similar,” the report states. GNOFHAC filed a lawsuit against HUD and the State of Louisiana and reached a $62 million settlement in 2011.

A 2015 Louisiana State University report found that 70 percent of long-term white residents were able to return to New Orleans within one year, whereas only 42 percent of long-term black residents made it back in the same time period.

The faulty Road Home program was just part of the reason so many African American residents did not return to rebuild. Low-income and African American homeowners often did not know their homes were located in a floodplain because of outdated maps used by mortgage banks and insurance companies. For the working-class families that did have flood insurance, few had enough to cover a total loss of their home.

If you’re in the process of preparing for this year’s hurricane season, and you don’t have your own transportation to leave during a mandatory evacuation, go to your closest “evacuspot” to use City-assisted evacuation. Watch this video to find out more: